The San Francisco Chronicle was just one of the media outlets that reported today that charges have been filed against two Berkeley law students who decapitated a rare bird in Las Vegas on October 12, 2012. Prosecutors have charged Justin Teixeira, 24, with felony killing and felony torturing of an animal. Eric Cuellar, also 24, has received a lesser charge with a misdemeanor of instigating, engaging in or furthering an act of animal cruelty.
“This was a pretty horrendous act,” Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson told The Associated Press, adding that an investigation is ongoing and could result in criminal charges against one or two other people. “I’m hoping we can send a message to people who visit that this is totally unacceptable.”
Las Vegas Police report that both men were seen with the body of the dead 14-year-old exotic bird, a helmeted guineafowl at the Flamingo resort-casino on the Las Vegas Strip. Both men were tossing around the dead carcass and laughing at it.
‘I (expletive) killed wildlife,’ Teixeira said, according to a report by witnesses obtained by LVRG.com.
The bird’s name was Turk and was part of the Flamingo’s Wildlife Habitat. A surveillance video contained footage of the men chasing the bird into trees. Witnesses also told Police that the pair emerged from the trees with the severed head and the bird’s body. Police also have stated that the two men did not appear to be under the influence of drugs at the time of the decapitation. If convicted on all charges a prison sentence is possible. Both men are scheduled to appear in court on February 11, 2013.
“According to the security people, the men were laughing and joking about the fact of what they had done,” Sgt. John Sheahan of the Las Vegs Metro Police told KLAS.com immediately after the incident on October 12.
The State Bar of California contains a “good moral character” criteria for applicants who want to be licensed to practice law in the State. Criminal charges and convictions can jeopardize a legal career before it even starts. People who have been convicted of violent felonies are presumed to not be of good moral character.
As several media outlets have reported, Gina Greisen, the president of Nevada Voters for Animals and an advocate for the state’s newly passed, tougher law against animal cruelty, said those potential consequences are appropriate.
“I don’t think you should get to be a lawyer if you do something like that,” Greisen said. “If you are lucky enough to be a Berkeley law student, you know you have to be above reproach in a lot of ways.”